A guide to be generous, lead and make a difference. By sharing what you know and how.
Creating value, offering services and building products. And also make a living at the same time. Internet makes it fast for you to do this things. You are required to lead.
What Is A Membership Website
Having a blog online is sorta mandatory. Earlier when there used to be only a few extensions available, like com, in, org – the names were limited. Because all the popular ones were taken and you couldn’t get your name or something good enough when you start your website.
Some people hoard domain names to cash in when someone is looking for a specific domain name. This happened to the point that the only names available were the ones with random letters.
Thankfully, there are many new extensions which have been released. And the hope is it keeps on releasing slowly so that people willing to buy a domain name get a decent one.
This hoarding of domain names leaves people with less money. They have to settle for whatever they can get their hands on. Internet was build for democracy, but the people with money can simply buy a domain name of their choice. Everyone is on a race to get their online identity. And it’s getting difficult to feel like you are doing something new.
When the internet came, it was promised as a new way of doing things. Blogs were few, and not everyone was online. Now, everyone writes online in some form of social media. And everyone owns some sort of blog. It’s similar to the diary. It started like that.
And slowly, people started writing about their passion, to share and make an impact. Blogs are everywhere.
If you spend enough time on the internet, you realize you can make money off the internet. Many blow owners are earning in millions. And others in hundreds of dollars. Some earn a living, and some receive pocket change.
Naturally, you want to earn money. This is a great thing. There are a few ways to go about it. You can put ads on your blog. But slowly, the earnings from ads have been decreasing. And now, it isn’t a recommended way to earn money if you are a solo blogger.
Second is to recommend products and earn a commission if your fans buy the product. That’s amazing. But slowly, you can make products yourself and sell them to your fans. Earning good enough money. But what if you can earn money like clockwork every month. That would be amazing. And now you are entering the membership zone.
Either you can offer a section of your website as a paid monthly membership or your whole blog. But you can block your whole blog only when you are already popular. Or you transition from the freemium model to the paid version. The best approach is to write 4 articles per month. And 3 of them would be free. So visitors can come and join your email list. And if they want the 4th article, they can pay a monthly subscription.
Or you can create a paid forum, share exclusive interviews or behind the scenes. All of this is the value you create to provide to your paid member.
A membership website usually has free and paid offerings. And once enough people subscribe to paid, you will earn a consistent income every month.
Different Ways You Can Offer Something
What do you actually offer so that some of your fans get convinced to pay you a monthly membership fee?
You can create a podcast which goes on deeper on a topic you covered in an article. So, the idea of the article can still travel. Because it’s free. But for someone who wants a deep dive, stories and work that went into understanding a certain topic, you can offer that as a paid value.
Movies often do this. Although their movie is paid, they offer DVDs with extra scenes. So fans of the movie pay even more to get those DVDs.
Or you can create a community. Since you are following a certain blog – you resonate with that person and their ideas. There are others too who are similar to you.
So, a forum can be created, and paid member can be invited. So people who want to interact, go deeper can do so in such paid forums. A community is an awesome paid value.
Another thing you can do is give away the main footage, design or coding – whatever value you provide as free. And behind the scenes, extra footage. So in this way, the people can’t pay still have access to quality material. And die-hard fans get their extra footage for a premium. Everyone is happy.
Or you can connect with your fans. You can make everything you do for free. But every month, you go live with your paid members and interact with them. You are like a mini-celebrity. People will pay to listen to your live stream, your ideas and your raw conversations.
Or you can ask fans to support so you can scale. For example, you can decide 50 per cent of the membership money will be your salary and other 50 per cent as an investment to make your offering even better. This is amazing because the fans will love to see their money going to improve what is being offered already.
As an extension of this, you can offer your fans to sponsor your work. As a credit, they will get a thank you at the end of work – be it article or video. You can provide a link to your website to thank everyone who supports you. Avenues are many – membership website is the future in the making. Because this is the most sustainable way to earn money. And the best way to include your fans in your journey. A win-win for everyone involved.
If It’s Super Important, It Needs To Be Free
Many people choose a method of membership which is like this – they write 3 articles or make 3 products. They then make 2 free and 1 paid. This seems okay, as long as you are in a niche audience. And your voice won’t be needed for a culture shift. But that often isn’t true. Your best articles should be free. You have to make memberships on top of that. Like community access or a memory or a thank, you note.
News organization are jumping into the membership thing. And they are getting a good amount of subscribers. But they are in the news field, which means your news should travel across. Because it’s important. If you allow only 1 article per day to free users, then that can be a problem. You won’t be making a dent in the culture. Because many people can’t pay for everything. So, you should give value in another sense.
For example, a news publisher should make news free for all. But for paid users, they can allow them to comment. A feature is available for members only.
There have been articles which I read and have changed my direction. Those have informed me to make the leap. And if those were behind a paywall, then I would not have so driven in life.
Internet is an amazing place. Consider the Wikipedia model – it runs on donations. But that donations pay for the senior editors, other employees and an office, apart from running the Wikipedia itself. Wikipedia itself is free for anyone to read. Either you can do that, so you think of creating a membership website as donations. Which is awesome. Because you keep doing everything same and die-hard fans pay for you to continue.
Or you can show the extra footage which you never were gonna show them as a value to your paid members. Remember, memberships works great. And if you have 1000 true fans paying – you don’t need anyone else. You can keep creating things, and you will keep getting those dollars.
But if what you create has to make a dent, in culture and in ages to come – then it has to be available in free form.
Always have a summary of your content public available free. The idea which you want to spread should find a vessel. And in public, is the best vessel.
You might think of these ideas as a contradiction. But the thing is you need to balance. In no way, you should be offering things which are your great work only to paid members. But at the same time, you need to provide enough value in other things – be it access, thank you note or behind the scenes – that they subscribe to your memberships.
Seth Godin does it amazing. He has written extensively on the ‘The Marketing’. Which is free. Then there is ‘The Marketing Seminar’, a free video. Then there is a book, ‘This Is Marketing’ which costs about $20. For someone looking to explore in-depth the marketing. And then there is ‘The Marketing Seminar’ course which is a membership course. Anyone who is looking to deep dive with a community. So the idea of marketing is given to the public for free. And there are different offerings for various people who want even more.
Own Your Email Subscribers
Membership sites are lucrative. But like in any business – you should own the very thing which is the core. For example, if you are a fashion clothes seller, then you need to protect your business. If you rent a store in a busy location. And slowly over the years, you develop a relationship – your sales keep increasing. But one day, the owner decides to stop renting. And now, you are forced to relocate.
If you haven’t built a relationship with the customers, then they will keep buying from that same location. But this time it will be the shop of someone else. You did all the hard work, and now someone else is reaping the benefits. Even worse, you are back to square one – now you have to do all the work again.
If you are social media influencer, one thing you can do is be on all social media. Because social media have a tendency to go out of business. It has happened before. And there is no guarantee that something new comes and sweeps away your presence.
So whatever new promising thing comes, make an account and mention it on your main social media. Sure, keep doing all the things which you do on your main social media. But keep dropping little bits on other social media accounts which isn’t your main account.
And now, if your main social media suddenly decides to shut down itself, then you can redirect your fans to another social media.
Or if your primary social media bans you – you can still do the work because you are active on other social media. So your presence is there. If the ban isn’t lifted, you can double down on the next social media, and you will gain enough followers again.
Vine was a short video platform which shut down. But many diverted their audience to YouTube. So when Vine got shut down, they had some traction on YouTube already – so they grew on YouTube. Right now, the upcoming platform is TikTok. Even if you are on Instagram or YouTube, make some presence on TikTok. Divert some fans to TikTok. So if something happens, you can double down on TikTok. And you will gain enough followers because you have the fans to do initial traction.
But what about membership websites. What is something you should do? Remember, no matter what business you are in online. You should own the email subscribers of people who have subscribed to you. And if you use an advance email client, then you may get a segmented list of who had bought something or subscribed to you.
So, if any third party platforms fail or go away or you like something else – you should be able to switch. As long as you own the email lists, you can transport the list and the details. And service like Podia is open to help you export your information and list to you. So you have the liberty to go away any time you like.
But on the other hand, Podia is so awesome that you would like to stay for as long as you create. Podia is literally creators paradise. With so many options, it allows you to seamlessly try many things. And also – when you have a complete solution for creators, then why would you try 5 different service providers.
How To Create Value
With so many options to create value, you will be confused as to what type of value you should create. The first step is to build an audience, so you have enough audience. And then you can build a relationship with them. The best thing is to have a newsletter. No matter which niche or art you are in – you can send a weekly newsletter. Where you can showcase your art, connect and share some tips or nitpicks.
Slowly, you will build a community because you have been giving all the time. And now after a year or so, you can take – start a membership thing.
The best thing to do is to ask your readers, fans, community. Something along the lines, ‘ Hey, I am thinking to start a membership thing where you pay monthly support. What type of value you would be wanting’.
And then give the option. Via a poll, you can get some idea. And then email 10 fans and share what value you will be giving. Get feedback and then work to have a launch.
After the launch, about 10 per cent of your subscribers should be able to convert. If it’s less, then it’s okay. But remember to relaunch with different heading and a variation of the giveaway, sorta like tiers. If you support $3, then you will get a thank you note. If you support $5 then a thank you note and mention in the newsletter. The aim is to get enough people so you can support yourself. If you get more, then pay it forward – support newsletters which you like and the chain should continue.
This will also boost the economy like none other. Because the fans support, the big companies would have to innovate.
You can still take sponsors from companies, but they should level up. And provide value to you and your fans. This way, you can get sponsors from amazing companies and make an impact in huge ways. The advertising model would have to convert into a sponsorship model – where they won’t track clicks.
They would also need to grow to a connection economy. And the shift in culture would be amazing—something which you propelled too.